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Daniel Day-Lewis spoke with poet, Eileen Myles in this 2002 interview. Photography by Terry Richardson.
 

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  JERRY HALL
STEPHANIE SEYMORE
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DENNIS HOPPER
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BRIAN WILSON
WILL OLDHAM
DJ SPOOKY

Dan Deacon, 2009

WITH JUNO DEMELO
PHOTOGRAPHED BY COLIN DODGSON


Dan Deacon
could be described as the evil lovechild of David Byrne and Will Ferrell. On the one hand, he is a sophisticated musician — having studied at Purchase College’s Conservatory of Music, he crafts otherworldly music that’s impressively complex. On the other hand, at twenty-seven, Dan is still the spaced-out frat boy — he wears Sally Jessie Raphael glasses, relishes practical jokes and binge drinking, and distorts his singing voice so it sounds like he’s been sucking down helium.

So when I went to see one of Dan’s shows at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple on a rain-soaked night this past December, I wasn’t sure what to expect. While I knew that the young electronic music wizard had quite a following, I was still surprised to see that masses of smartly dressed, well-past college age fans had schlepped their way through the storm to this far-flung venue to hear Dan’s sound collages.

His music that night sounded like he was working on a Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Piano with the sophistication of an audio engineer. Pieced together from Woody Woodpecker loops and handclaps, his sound was giddy and ripe. Intoxicated by Dan’s performance, the otherwise worldly crowd moshed for the entirety of the show.

New York-based writer Juno DeMelo (who’s day job is at Shape magazine) talked to Dan about his music and his notorious ‘tude.



Juno: What would be your dream tour? What would you eat… how would you go from city to city?
Dan: My dream tour would be staying only in homes with yards. We’d tour with a scavenger/forager chef, who’d also be a martial artist. We would eat what the chef cooked — ingredients found around the homes. We would travel in my converted school bus.

Juno: Even though you’re only twenty-seven, you’ve gotten lots of awards. Rolling Stone named “Crystal Cat” one of the top singles of the year, Pitchfork put Spiderman of the Rings on its list of top fifty albums. They called it “the most joyful album of 2007.”
Dan: Yeah, I was surprised and happy, but it didn’t faze me very much. I have no idea how I heard about either one... Normally my dad’s the one that tells me about stuff like that.

Juno: Has your father ever come to a show?
Dan: Yeah, he comes to shows a lot. I’m not sure how much he’s into the music, but he definitely likes coming.

Juno: Someone told me that when you were in college you were into all kinds of bizarre pranks. I heard you dressed up as the Hamburglar at Halloween.
Dan: I was hosting this Halloween party, so I burgled all these raw burgers from the dining hall over a period of four days. I didn’t refrigerate them, so, by Halloween they were all covered in ants. These dudes were like, “What’s up, Hamburglar? We’re gonna steal some burgers from the Hamburglar.” And I was like, “I don’t think you want to do that.” But one of the dudes just grabbed one, shoved it in his mouth, and was like, “This is great, Hamburglar.” Then he looked up while this burger was still in his mouth and he just went, “Ughhhhhhhhhhh,” as the burger just fell out of his mouth.

Juno: I became interested in your music after watching the YouTube video that Liam Lynch made using the lyrics from your song, “Drinking Out of Cups,” which was on your 2003 album, Meetle Mice.
Dan: It was a piece I wrote for school, for solo voice. I wrote it while really sick — it took me an hour. I was watching television with the sound off and used that as my guide.

Juno: You’ve just come from a Brazilian tour — how were your fans there different from your American ones?
Dan: The major difference was that people there actually danced instead of slamming into each other. Overall the experience was really surreal. I make pretty weird music, and I never thought I'd be getting flown around the world to play for crowds of a few thousand people. It was a really insane, mind-blowing experience. My CDs aren’t even sold in Brazil, but people were singing along. I probably signed more autographs there than I ever have in my life. The highlight of the trip was the impromptu house show I did at 3 a.m. in São Paulo. I can’t wait to go back, hopefully for a full South American tour.

Juno: You’re famous for performing out in the crowd. Aren’t you afraid that people will mess with your equipment?
Dan: It certainly gets pummeled. I play with the equipment table braced up against the stage. I stand in front of it on the same side as the crowd. I just sort of ask the people upfront if they can help guard it a little bit. There have been couple of disasters here and there, but most of the time it works out pretty good.

Juno: Jimmy Joe Roche does a lot of your videos. He’s also worked with Jonathan Demme on “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” How did the two of you meet?
Dan: We met sort of randomly in college… he had a lot of weird stuff taped to his door, I had a lot of weird stuff taped to my door, and we lived down the hall from each other. One day, my friend Pete and I went down to the radio station to try to get a show together, and Jimmy was there trying to get a show too. Pete and Jimmy ended up doing a metal show together, but I didn’t really like metal. We never really hung out, and then on a whim I asked him to move into this apartment I was renting. We ended up living together for six years.

Juno: Jimmy also acts, right?
Dan: Um, I guess he does. He has starred in his own videos. I’d say he’s an actor, sure… a celebrated actor!

Juno: He has a small part in Rachel Getting Married... did he get to meet Anne Hathaway?
Dan: Yeah, I think the two of them had some sort of a thing going on. [laughs]

Juno: Your music is almost exclusively electronic. Was there ever a time when you were interested in acoustic music?
Dan: Actually, most of the stuff I wrote early on was for acoustics. I just became used to electronics because it made it so much easier to do everything on my own. It’s much more difficult to get together a twenty-person ensemble to play five minutes of music than it is to use your computer to play hours and hours of music. Early on, it was a matter of necessity. Now I’m using less and less electronics and more and more live instrumentation.

Juno: How is your next album going? I heard it’s going to be called Bromst?
Dan: I think it came out great; I’m really happy with it. It has the same style and emotional energy as my last one — it’s supposed to get you excited and pumped up and optimistic. Musically it’s a lot more intense, though — the songs are a lot longer and a lot less pop-based. I feel like the last record was a collection of singles. This one is an album that’s meant to be listened to in one sitting, in the same way you watch a movie or a play.

Juno: What does Bromst mean?
Dan: I was supposed to make alist of all these different lies I was going to tell people when they asked what Bromst meant, but I haven’t done it yet. It’s just a name I thought would be awesome. It’s something I came up with years ago… I just like the ways it sounds. I wanted the album to be it’s own thing and not have connotations, but I didn’t want an absurd word like “biddlyboo.” Do you think Bromst sounds too serious?

Juno: Not at all…
Dan: It was either that or Ghostbuster Cook. What a stupid title that would have been…



Dan Deacon, photographed by Colin Dodgson before his show in Brooklyn on January 30th.
Dan Deacon's "Crystal Cat" video. Rolling Stone called it one of the top singles of 2007.
A video by Liam Lynch, using Dan Deacon's lyrics from his song, "Drinking Out of Cups."



Homepage and Tour Dates
Pitchfork's Dan Deacon Page
Dan Deacon's Myspace Page
Interview with New York Times

Dan takes to the airwaves on the NBC morning show.
Copyright © 2008 index Magazine and index Worldwide. All rights reserved.
All photos by index photographers: Leeta Harding, Richard Kern, David Ortega, Ryan McGinley, Terry Richardson, and Juergen Teller